In December, our first graders “travel” around the world to learn about different countries. We learn about different celebrations, traditions, styles of homes, etc. This year, we made suitcases for our journey! Every time we learn about a new country, the kids will get that country’s map to glue onto their suitcase (I thought about doing “stamp” type things, but I think flags will be more meaningful). The worksheets, pictures, and small crafts we use in the lessons will be stored inside the suitcase.
We started yesterday with a refresher lesson about continents and map skills, and today they decorated their suitcases and added the first flag (our “starting point”). The kids were SO excited…they’ve been wondering what we were going to do with all the cereal boxes since I started collecting them weeks ago!
I’ve been seeing these “adding machines” around the Internet lately, and decided to make one of my own. I brought it in today, and the kids just love it. One of the first questions was, “What’s it’s name?” I hadn’t thought of that! So I had kids suggest names, which were mostly along the lines of “the plus machine” or “the add and equal thing” until one student said, “Hey, we already have a Spellatron, and this is for math, so let’s call it Mathatron!” Everyone loved that, so Mathatron 5000 it is!
I made some “just one minute” activity folders to go along with our lessons about time. They have been VERY popular!
I so love our November “turkeys in disguise” project!
We wrapped up our lessons on telling time with a hunt! I taped these clock cards all over the room. The students were required to find at least seven clocks (which was half the number of clocks I put up) and record the letter label and the time, but they could do more if they wanted to (nearly all of them did). I put little dots on each card, one dot for “easiest” up to four dots for “challenging”, and quietly pulled aside my most advanced students before we started and told them they had to do all the four dot clocks first, then they could do as many of the rest as they liked. I also pulled aside a couple of my very lowest students and told them to look for the clocks with only one dot first, then try some two dots if they could, etc.
The kids just loved this. I had such a blast watching them scurry around the room, getting all excited when they found another clock, trying so hard to figure out the harder clocks (the very toughest had Roman numerals, or only 12,3,6,9, or even no numbers at all), helping each other count by five. After we came back together and went over the answers, we had our telling time assessment. They did great!
The top four pictures are of some of my S’cool Moves “focus stations” (the pics are deliberately from a distance and a bit blurry, as I don’t want trouble). To introduce the focus stations, I first teach each one to a different student, then make those students the “teachers” for the stations. Then we have a few days of rotating through all the stations with a teacher at each one, and after that I make “focus stations” a learning center for a couple of weeks. Finally after that, I start using the stations as a way for kids to take a short break, either kids who need to calm down a bit, or kids who are struggling with their work and starting to get frustrated. I also use them during Writer’s Workshop as a way to get them to write a bit more…if a student is stuck or simply doesn’t want to write any longer, I will send them to do the entire circuit of focus stations with the understanding that they need to get back to writing when they are done. This works wonders!
However, I only have that one set of posters, bought at a S’cool moves workshop. The posters are insanely expensive, so I won’t be buying more, but my kids are starting to get a bit bored with the same thing. So I made my own! I will get these laminated this week and start them in December. They are mostly the same type of exercises that I already have up, just changed a bit to keep interest alive. I figure that I will make another set around March or so.
That last picture, with the basket of wooden massagers? My mother in law gave them to me (hi Sharon!), and I brought them in to my classroom specifically for one student. She has severe allergies to just about everything, and the poor kid is constantly itchy and squirmy. I offered her the massagers in hopes that they might help, and she just loves them (I think the distraction helps, too). Of course, even though the rest of the kids don’t really need it, they all wanted to try the massagers too, so I made them a focus station too (although I didn’t make a poster for it until now). Most kids just tried them out once or twice and then lost interest, but I have a few who really respond to it, and even ask to visit this station when they are feeling antsy or anxious.
Sometimes after we learn a new word family, I will “hide” words around the room for kids to find and then add to a chart. The only rules are that they may only do one word a day (to make sure everyone gets a chance), and they have to bring the word to me and read it before adding it to the chart. They LOVE this, and I must admit it’s fun for me, too!